Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky makes me feel like I’m sitting in a desert and looking up at all the beautiful and clear stars, while a fellow traveller – perhaps someone I’ve only just met, is telling stories of their life, a life so different to mine, and yet quite alike.
When first entering the piece by Sharrif Ezzat you see a black screen and hear a man talk in Arabic with english “subtitles”. While the titles of the stories within the piece are said out loud, the black screen get’s filled up with stars, some brighter than others. The brightest (or bluest) are his stories.
As mentioned the piece consist of different short stories, styled almost as poems, and each of them have some sort of existential questions at the end. “Is this life a test? / Is that why we suffer? / Or is that how we endure it?” (Shall I tell you about my uncle whose life is a test?) or “What will it take to make him happy?” (Shall I tell you about my cousin, whose palace is unfinished?). The questions make the piece stick with the reader, at least it did with me, and the desert sky and arabic voice made me think of a culture so different from mine and yet close to it.
In my first notes about this piece I wrote that the stories were about people who are unhappy, and I think that is true to some extend, but as I have read them again I think the main theme of these stories are love, both the happy and less happy (not necessarily unhappy). There is the story of a man who is married to a woman who despises the place he is from, but I think he still loves her, or sees the part of her he fell in love with, even though other parts of her are now showing. In that story you could say the unhappiness lies within the couple.
In another story (Shall I tell you about my sister? Please let me tell you about my sister …) the unhappiness is coming from outside. The storyteller’s sister falls in love with a man below her social class, which her parents disapprove, and they try to break them apart. Within this story I don’t necessarily think the couple in love are unhappy, not always anyway. Therefore I think the main theme of these stories are the struggles of love.
There is also larger narratives that goes beyond the family and friends of the storyteller. In the story Perhaps I should tell you that the whole world is determined to become my family I get the idea that it’s about refugees; “Some are scared and seeking shelter. / Some are confused and don’t know how they / arrived. / Others are overjoyed. / And have already / Started cooking the first meal.”. I think this translates very well to what people immigrating to a new country must feel, while it also illustrates that no one has the exact same experience. I think there is an element of social criticism in this piece, even though it is more obvious in some texts than others.
Overall I really liked this piece it made me stop and think, instead of just be “something I had to read for a class”. Apart from that I really think the layout of it is beautiful and the text, audio and visuals really suit each other.